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Criminals can’t enjoy immunity

By Kunle Oyatomi
Once again, President Yar’Adua has spoken in very clear terms against the immunity clause of the constitution, which makes prosecution of ‘executive criminals’ impossible whilst they are in office. I must admit that I sympathize with Mr president even if I think differently on the subject.

My take on this controversial subject is that the immunity clause as it stands needs some modifications. I disagree that it should be scrapped from the constitution, because such action is capable of significantly stalling government rather than improve its operations.

The Nigerian political space and majority of those who parade themselves as politicians are grossly underdeveloped – sometimes even backward – and of very selfish and self-centred mentality. They have no scruples whatsoever and for reason other than patriotic, would abuse the process of the law to stall progress.

We have seen that happen so often since this democratic dispensation and we should not allow these people to destroy the system completely.

This is the unintended situation we are likely to fall into if we remove the immunity clause. I am of the opinion that embedded in Mr. President’s insistence on scrapping the clause, is the perception that the big thieves are actually the ones being protected by the immunity clause.

But I also hold that this is only because we have a relatively weak institution, otherwise, the provision of the law as it stands is strong enough to deal with criminals in the system.

Two things are clear: We can make the law work, and we can checkmate the criminals if we have the political will. How then? Simple!!

We can strengthen the law as well as the institution designed to effect the law. My proposal is this: While retaining the immunity clause, we should insert the proviso that any executive, (whether president, his deputy or governor and his deputy) found culpable after investigation of criminal mismanagement of state fund or fraudulent transactions should resign and face prosecution.

But if he refuses to resign within seven days of the publication of that investigation, the president or governor would stand automatically impeached.

Most Nigerian politicians and office holders are not known to be gifted with honour to resign voluntarily if it becomes morally untenable for them to continue if office. So let us make it legally binding on them to do so through a provision of the law; and the best place to start effecting this should be from the executive arm of government.

In this way, it would be made abundantly clear that whereas the governor or his deputy, or the duo in the presidency are immune from prosecution, that immunity does not cover criminal and fraudulent actions.

Within this proviso inserted in section 308 of the constitution, there will be no need to scrap the immunity clause.

The case must be further stated here that those institutions (like EFCC and ICPC) established to ensure accountability and prosecute financial crimes against the Nigerian state and its citizens should be made powerful enough to be effective and they should be insulated from executive and political influence and/or interference.

Until we can strengthen these institutions, we cannot get on top of the corruption currently  ravaging the country. We must do that or perish.

Nigeria – an illiterate country?

IF the trend of ‘drop outs’ from schools continue at the current rate in Nigeria, according to a United Nations’ findings published in the Nigerian dailies during the week, this country stands the dismal chance of being pronounced an illiterate country within the next decade. That report was said to have emanated from the UN representative in Enugu.

That is not much of a news anyway because since the military crackdown on education began, it has never gotten as bad as it is today. Up till this moment, there is still considerable reluctance on the part of government to invest the optimum on education. Perhaps the UN warning, that should this trend continue, Nigeria’s ambition to become one of the world’s 20 strongest economic countries within the next decade, would be a bad dream.

The problem Nigeria faces today over education and its development is that increasingly the more educated you  become, the more likely you are pushed into the poverty trap.

Few people want you, fewer institutions will need you; and to your dismay, you will observe the people who control the nation’s wealth are either illiterates, ill-educated or under-educated people who are celebrated to no end by society.

But whether we like it or not, there is a horrific price this country will pay for not paying the optimum attention to education. If many people are not already blind to it, the effects are so clear to behold and experience.

An illiterate society will always remain poor. No less will be the circumstance of a country or a nation.


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